We launched Where The Light Gets In, a regenerative design field kit, last week in the Artefact Shop. It’s gone really well, driven in a good part by a LinkedIn post. Once upon a time, that would have been Twitter, but blog posts on a radically different social media landscape are for another day.

We were visiting my folks in Scotland, and I had brought one for Mum and Dad to have a look at. After dinner, Dad asked ‘ok, sit me down and explain this’, so we were going through the viewer and the question cards at the dinner table.

We pointed the viewer at the salt cellar, a simple stainless steel piece of tableware that has been in the house for as long as I can remember.

Stainless steel salt cellar at my parents home

We asked the questions on the viewer – what is this, what is it for, who uses it and so on – just as a demonstration of how it draws you into looking at things you would normally ignore and ask better questions of them.

Then we used the question cards to think about how it might be reimagined in the future. The first card was ‘What’s the difficult design decision you’re prepared to own?’ – we wondered about a salt cellar that reduces the salt in peoples’ diets amongst other things.

Then we pulled this card…

What might the original designer do today?

Which is a stumper, so you would think. Because how are you going to find out who made a small piece of mass produced tableware from the 1970s…

…unless…

…you turn it over

A mass-produced maker’s mark

And lo and behold, there on the bottom are the details of the maker, as clear as day. None of us had ever looked at it before. It was designed by Gerald Benney, graduate and then professor at the RCA, for Viners of Sheffield. You can see his work in the V&A amongst other places.

Given the backstory of the Field Kit, and the involvement of Natalie Kane at the V&A and Dr. Rob Phillips at the RCA (see here for more about that), it feels delightfully fitting that Dad and I should have randomly selected this object to test it on.

It’s also interesting to see a maker’s mark so pronounced on a piece of everyday table-ware.

As we were packing up the kit again, Dad looked at it again. “It just helps people… open things out.”

Spot on, Dad.